Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Labor Day

Rate this book
With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonement and Nick Hornby's About a Boy, acclaimed author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery as seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy—and the man he later becomes—looking back at an unexpected encounter that begins one single long, hot, life-altering weekend.

244 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Joyce Maynard

55 books1,958 followers
Joyce Maynard first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story “An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life” in 1973, when she was a freshman at Yale. Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in more than fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR. Her writing has also been published in national magazines, including O, The Oprah Magazine; Newsweek; The New York Times Magazine; Forbes; Salon; San Francisco Magazine, USA Weekly; and many more. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Charlie Rose, and on Fresh Air. Essays of hers appear in numerous collections. She has been a fellow at Yaddo, UCross, and The MacDowell Colony, where she wrote her most recently published novel, Labor Day.

The author of many books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel To Die For (in which she also plays the role of Nicole Kidman’s attorney) and the bestselling memoir, At Home in the World, Maynard makes her home in Mill Valley, California. Her novel, The Usual Rules—a story about surviving loss—has been a favorite of book club audiences of all ages, and was chosen by the American Library Association as one of the ten best books for young readers for 2003.

Joyce Maynard also runs the Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop in Guatemala, founded in 2002.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
5,446 (16%)
4 stars
13,113 (39%)
3 stars
10,837 (32%)
2 stars
2,806 (8%)
1 star
799 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,526 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
September 8, 2022
Henry is a 13-year-old living with his pet hamster, Joe, and his agoraphobic, damaged mother at the end of a cul-de-sac in Holton Mills, New Hampshire. He sees his father on Saturday nights for unappetizing outings to Friendly’s with dad’s new family. Henry is small, unathletic and on the lower steps of the social ladder at school. But changes are afoot. His body is undergoing a metamorphosis in obvious ways, and his interests are beginning to point, sometimes embarrassingly so, toward girls. His life takes a turn on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a bleeding man approaches Henry while he is in a store with his mother, and asks for help.

Joyce Maynard - from NY Magazine

Henry’s coming-of-age journey includes lessons on throwing a baseball, learning how to make a perfect pie crust, exposure to sexuality, his own and others’, admiration, jealousy, selfishness, selflessness, love and betrayal. He learns the power of hope over despair, and the impact of betrayal.

My upbringing was nothing like Henry’s but, having once been a 13-year-old boy, I felt I could relate to Henry’s struggles. Maynard captured the essence of that curious time of life and adds a morally thoughtful dimension that gives added heft to her story.

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in the film - image from Cmfilmcommentary.com

I ripped through this book in near record time. It is a fast read, but also a compelling one. Labor Day is a work well done.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

The film was released January 31, 2014. I saw the film a couple of weeks prior. It is a beautiful piece of work, very true to the book and it is depressing how sexy Josh Brolin is. Makes the rest of us guys look pretty bad. Winslet is in fine form, of course. I hear tell that Maynard wanted to offer ladies of a certain age an image of hope. It is amazingly sensuous, and a real shame that it was overlooked by Oscar voters.

The NY Times reviewer had a very different opinion of the film

GR pal Carmen has sent along a link to a fun article in Parade Magazine. Joyce Maynard had a very hands-on involvement in showing Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet how it is done when it comes to making a pie. Definitely worth a look. Gracias, Carmen.
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
453 reviews660 followers
January 19, 2018
I'm a recent fan of Joyce Maynard and just want to read all of her books now. But I should probably slowly, savor them. For years I have wanted to read this one, but it stayed in my pile. The movie came out, and I never watched it, because I wanted to read the book first. I said I was going to wait to read this one since it was her highest rated GR book. But I'm unpredictable about reads.

Labor Day tells the story of one long, steamy Labor Day weekend told from the point of view of Henry. It's the story of longing, and wanting to be loved. Henry is 13 and lives with his mother. His parents are divorced and he eats dinner out once a week with his father and his new family. Henry doesn't feel like he belongs. He has no friends, except for his mother. His mother is haunted by her past and almost appears to go through the motions of life, not really living. She is practically a recluse. Until that one fateful day when they go to the store for pants for Henry. This is where they meet Frank, an escaped convict, who is also longing. And immediately, all three of their lives are drastically changed. Especially after that incredible Labor Day weekend that they spend together that seems like a life time. And also, how the smallest consequences can change entire lives of people.

This was quite the slow, sultry read. A truly lovely story how people can ultimately find that one true love, that knows no bounds. I really enjoyed the story and listened to this one via audio, which was good, but not narrated by Maynard. While I did like this one, I found her book After Her a much more captivating read. I have the movie version ready to watch this weekend. And, I've already grabbed my next Maynard read....maybe I am predictable after all.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,097 reviews565 followers
June 30, 2016
4.5 Stars

Just wow. I've met Ms Maynard too late in my life!

This story would have been better for me, had I not watched the movie first. I liked both. I dare say I would have been obsessed with the book and rated a resounding 5 stars had I not been privy to the screen play prior to the novel. But this is okay with me, it just changed the route to get to the ending, in a way.

The author added a handful of pages at the end, entitled “Don’t Try This at Home: How I Came to Write This Novel”. This is her story of how this story came to life. I like these added bits of gold, when the author gives their back story. What I gleaned from this is that Joyce is a trusting soul, likes to see the best in people and likes to see a story unfold, whether she has weighed up every little pro and con there could be - or not. I see this in myself in a way, and now am very keen to learn more about her and her work.

This is my favourite part – “But the world I want to live in as a world in which it is still possible to believe in goodness, to trust in love. If a happy ending of sorts presented itself in Labor Day, I take no credit for it. The characters themselves created their story. I just wrote it down for them.”

I like that Adele, our fragile leading lady trusted in this man she met, realistic or not, I love that she took a chance, and I also love that Frank was a good man who showed his love straight away. This is a story and JM saw it through. In her words and I’d echo them “Maybe it’s an impossibly romantic and idealistic story” but it’s a story of fiction which is there for the telling. I’m glad she told it!

“Everybody talks about all this crazy, wild passion, he said. That’s how it goes, in the songs. Your mother was like that. She was in love with love. She couldn’t do anything partway. She felt everything so deeply, it was like the world was too much for her. Any time she’d hear a story about some kids who had cancer, or an old man whose wife died, or his dog even, it was like it happened to her”.

I see a woman with passion here, I like what she’s written and I want to read more.

Update, June 2016, a very cold winter:

Months after reading I still think of this book. I stumbled across a delightful video of Joyce Maynard baking her 'pie'. Having a capable 13 year old at home on holidays before her siblings care of grammar school here she is following said recipe. Was fun translating sticks of butter and tapioca etc! Joyce was such fun and absolutely delicious I have to say!

Here is my girl:
 photo FullSizeRender_zpsnvg2eyho.jpg

and here is the final product:
 photo FullSizeRender 3223861_zpsmgo51hmg.jpg

Too yummy:
 photo FullSizeRender_zpshsjmchhn.jpg

Finally, here is the link so you can see the lovely Joyce Maynard in action:

Profile Image for Barbara H.
692 reviews
January 8, 2021
I must comment that early in my reading of this book, I was contemplating that it would be deserving of a 3 star rating. I certainly was in error, because as I progressed, the story became richer and more nuanced. When finally I reached the denouement I realized that I held in my hands a beautiful, evocative gem, which had brought me to tears.

Labor Day is the tale of a fourteen year old boy, Henry, who lives in isolation with his long-divorced, emotionally fragile mother. On one of their rare outings, he is approached by an injured man who requests his help. Henry and his mother pity him and take him to their home. It soon becomes clear that this is an escaped prisoner, but no ordinary man. The time they spend together is the moving, often delightful essence of this novel.

Maynard has skillfully and poignantly fashioned the narrative in the voice of Henry. She has vividly portrayed the emotions of all her characters, especially those of this adolescent boy on the threshhold of maturity and sexual awakening.

This was the first book that I have read by the uniquely talented Joyce Maynard. I look forward to exploring others. Perhaps I will reread this one!
Profile Image for Debbie W..
724 reviews487 followers
November 19, 2020
An escaped convict takes refuge in a woman's home with her 13-year old son. What could go wrong?

I am thrilled a friend of mine recommended this wonderful book about love and betrayal! The plot flowed so seamlessly that I found it difficult to put down; however, this story's strength lies with its characters. I felt a strong affinity for the major players, especially Adele (although I would never bring home a strange man with a sketchy story, no matter what the reasons are that the author gave for doing this!)
Without giving anything away, some parts of Adele's story touched me personally and were so heartbreaking, that I even cried with true understanding and sympathy for her actions and emotions. I get her! Frank treated her like a woman should be treated - with respect, with adoration, with love.

I highly recommend this book to contemporary fiction fans!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,006 reviews36k followers
February 5, 2017
If people saw the movie....
Even 'with' a talented cast.., it's not nearly as good as the book!!!!
Profile Image for Tina.
510 reviews792 followers
February 13, 2013
A quick, easy ready that touched me and had me in tears near the end. I've read Joyce Maynard before and she can really pull you in a story. This story is told thru the eyes of a thirteen year-old boy who lives with his mother. They live a lonely existence as she is a recluse and battling her own demons. They encounter an escaped convicted criminal in a store and take him home for the long weekend. What transpires that weekend changes all of their lives forever and has you rooting for something you normally wouldn't.
Profile Image for Carol [Goodreads Addict].
2,350 reviews24.7k followers
February 22, 2014
I have not seen the movie yet of Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, but I’ve seen enough movie trailers that I could read the book with the visuals of Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in my head. About at the half way point if asked, I would have rated the book 4 stars. But somewhere in that last half when everything was happening, my heart was lost. 5 huge and well deserved stars is the rating I am giving this book.

Henry is thirteen years old. He lives with his somewhat dysfunctional mother, Adele. Adele has several issues and at first, I was trying to come up with a proper diagnosis. But as I progressed through the book, it became obvious that her only true diagnosis was a broken heart.

“She felt everything so deeply, it was like the world was too much for her.”

During one of Henry and Adele’s rare trips to the store, Henry is approached by Frank who has escaped from prison. He is hurt and they take him home with them. During the six days he spent there, all of their lives were changed forever. We learn Frank’s story and you can’t help but fall in love with him. We learn Adele’s past, and the pain she has endured. These two people that have mostly only known loneliness find hope and love through each other.

“If I’d never jumped out that window, I never would have found you.”

 photo laborday1_zps5879893b.jpg

The story is told from Henry’s point of view as an adult remembering back to that time. A time when he was struggling with sexual awareness, living a somewhat lonely and awkward existence with his mother, and struggling with his relationship with his own father. Those six days had a profound impact on Henry and molded the rest of his life.

 photo laborday2_zps842dd608.jpg

I can honestly say that these three will not be forgotten anytime soon. They have etched themselves into my heart and there they will stay.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,353 reviews452 followers
December 20, 2014
There is a metaphor at the heart of this book, that of the creation of an upper crust for a peach pie and the difficulties encountered when the hands are shaky and the weather is humid. It must be handled delicately and involves a little magic. Such magic is present when a stranger who also happens to be an escaped convict lands in the house of a 13 year old self-described "loser" and his agoraphobic mother, both of whom could use a great deal of help. If the setup sounds a little too facile, the execution really is more complicated. Other reviews have said this is told from the point of view of that 13 year old, but it really is told from the point of view of that boy as an adult. It is a memory piece, not a journal of days. Such qualifiers as "at that time" give this away, making it much more than just a record, but a haunting realization of the power that a positive person can have at a pivotal time in someones life and how the result resonates decades after the fact. The novel is short in length, but is reminiscent of John Irving at his best.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews289 followers
May 19, 2017
A solid enjoyable read. I enjoyed the storyline, who cares if a little unbelievable. It was good to have the story told from the point of view of 13 year old Henry, even if some of that pre pubescent teenage musings got a little awkward. I loved Adele, you feel her sadness, she's a great character and I can understand how she fell for the charming con on the loose, the element of danger and being a recluse made him seem very compelling, you kind of wanted her to have a happy ending even under the questionable circumstances. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook, it was a simple easy to follow story and now I'll just have to force myself to watch the movie...hello Josh Brolin ;) lol
Profile Image for Karen.
573 reviews1,116 followers
February 11, 2014

Very good book..I hope the movie is as well done....
Profile Image for Jen .
2,556 reviews27 followers
May 15, 2014
I really, really tried. I got to page 88 and just gave up. The plot is contrived and I was just beginning to be able to suspend the disbelief necessary to get into the book, when I gave up on trying to be able to figure out who was speaking and/or thinking.

It is completely pretentious to write an entire book with a ton of dialogue and NOT use proper punctuation to indicate who is speaking and who is having inner dialogue. I get it, I get it, it's a big bad impressive way to write, but only if done well. It is not done well here. I gave up when I realized on my lunch break at work that I rather be working than reading this book. I actually read the reading guide questions, interview with the author (which was disturbing) and the prologue of another book of her's and didn't crack open the book proper.

I'm reading this for a book/movie club, where we read the book and then see the movie to determine which medium worked better for the story. Unless the movie is God-awful, it HAS to be better than the book. At least in a movie you can usually tell who is talking or if its an internal monologue.

This book gets one star because the dude on the cover is hot. That's about the best I can say for this book.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,056 reviews1,856 followers
December 15, 2020
I'm just annoyed. I usually would finish a book if I made it this far, 78%, but I'm just done. DONE.

First, Maynard starts off on the wrong foot by deciding to write a book with no quotation marks. Why is this so popular?!?!?! Is it "artistic?" Is it "deep?" Or what? Listen, quotation marks were invented for a reason. The reason being that it's difficult to read a book where you can't separate the dialogue from anything else.


It's always surprising and a bit awkward when I find I've walked into someone else's masturbatory fantasy. (Unless a book is labeled as "romance" or "erotica"). So I didn't really know what to say to Maynard when I found myself smack dab in the middle of her sexual fantasy. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize....," I said awkwardly, quickly glancing away from her. "Do you want me to leave?"

What are you talking about?

What am I talking about? What am I talking about!?!?!?! I'm talking about finding a bleeding convict and taking him home with you. Of course he's very handsome, and the perfect gentleman, and a war veteran. And he can cook like a champ. And play baseball. Baseball and pie! America!


He's all like, (okay, imagine a sexy deep voice here)
I need to ask you to take me up to your bedroom, Adele, he said. I'm guessing a woman like you would have a few scarves. Silk is good. Rope or twine can cut into the skin.

Then they describe him tying her up for like a page and a half. He ties her up with silk scarves very carefully and lovingly. And sexually. He gives her a foot massage before tying her feet up. Uh-huh. I'm sure. Meanwhile she is like completely passive and also asking him to fuck her with her eyes.

And then, of course, he has to feed her, right? Because she's tied up. And they describe him sensually and sexily feeding her for two pages.

The son is watching all this and he's no idiot. He knows they'll be having sex within 24 hours or less.

But it's okay! Because the convict is so polite, and strong, and manly, and fatherly. He helps the boy play baseball! He fixes the house! He fixes the car! He replaces light bulbs! He, um, ...makes sure that the mother isn't lonely in bed! Multiple orgasms! Perfect guy. What a great guy. WHO'S A CONVICT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, maybe what he did to get in prison wasn't so bad. I mean, it's not like he murdered his wife or anything, right? Right?

*crickets chirp*

Oh, hell no! No, no, no! You mean she's holed up in a house with a man who killed his wife!?!?!!?!?!??

He claims it was an accident.


But they really love each other. Even though they've only known each other 5 days. I mean, he's great in bed! Doesn't that count for a lot?

So the kid meets an anorexic girl and she tells him that sex is a drug that brainwashes people. She encourages him to call the cops on the convict and get the 10K reward. Even though it would be betraying his mom, who is happy for the first time in 13 years.

You know he's going to do it. There's NO question on whether he'll do it or not, because he is very, very, very horny and this is the only female who's paid attention to him in HIS ENTIRE LIFE. He'll do anything the little girly asks him to do.

And you, the reader, are like "Noooooo! Why?!!? Why are you going to shit all over your mother's happiness and Frank's happiness?!?! They are so happy and in love after only 5 days they are soulmates and stuff!"

And then you're like: "Wait. This guy killed his wife."

Also, you know the kid's an asshole. He's always been an asshole. You know he'd rat out his mother and destroy her because he's just like that. Okay? He's just like that. A female takes an interest in him, and suddenly his family loyalty is shot all to hell.

Also, I REALLY don't appreciate being made to suffer through the explicit sexual fantasies of 13-year-old boys. Once was bad enough, but four or five times?!!?!? It was just getting disgusting. I just wanted it to stop.

P.S. The writing (as in prose, not plot) is very good. Excellent writing.

UPDATE: I finished the book. I FINISHED IT. And at the end it turns out that the asshole kid didn't turn the convict in, the little anorexic did.

Also, the little anorexic lectures him about how sex is a drug but uses sex to try and drug (manipulate) him. Interesting.

UPDATE 2: I watched the movie. Slightly, slightly better than the book, as Winslet doesn't just roll over and let Brolin become Boyfriend, she actually does stuff like tells him anyone could come by at any time (lie) and that he'd better not hurt her son, etc. Very, very slightly better. But still bad.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Constantine.
834 reviews135 followers
December 31, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

I’m experimenting with a new structure for my reviews for 2023. Not all the books will be reviewed in this format, but whatever I find suitable will be.

The Plot:
The protagonists of Joyce Maynard's book Labor Day are 13-year-old Henry and his mother Adele, who lead quiet, solitary lives in a small New Hampshire town. Frank Chambers, a guy on the run from the law after escaping from jail, pays them a visit over Labor Day weekend. Despite their initial apprehension, Adele and Henry grow to like Frank and decide to assist him in eluding the law after realizing that he is a good man who has been falsely convicted of a crime.

The three of them become closer as they spend the long weekend together and start to rely on one another for emotional support. Henry starts to view Frank as a father figure and an inspiration, and Adele, who has been dealing with depression and feelings of isolation, finds comfort in Frank's presence. The three of them must face the painful truth of their circumstances and the decisions they have made as the weekend comes to a conclusion and Frank's time in hiding comes to an end. In addition to deciding whether to turn Frank in or assist him in escaping, they also have to deal with the difficult feelings they have grown to have for one another.

The Characters:
Adele: A single mother who is a resilient and self-reliant lady who has faced many obstacles in life, including raising Henry by herself. Although she presents a stern exterior, she is incredibly maternal and compassionate.

Henry: A smart and inquisitive teenager who is struggling with coming of age. The events of Labor Day weekend and the relationships Henry forms with Frank and his mother have a significant impact on him.

Frank Chambers: A man who has been wrongfully accused of committing a crime and is trying to avoid being apprehended. Despite the difficult situation he is in, he is compassionate, sympathetic, and empathic. He develops a close relationship with Adele and Henry and teaches them that there is more to the world than they know.

The Pace:
Generally speaking, the pace is well-balanced, with an emphasis on character growth and the emergence of the relationships between the main characters. The majority of the action in the story is focused on the interactions between Adele, Henry, and Frank as they spend time together in their small New Hampshire town over the course of a long holiday weekend.

There are some tense and contentious moments, especially as the characters struggle with the difficulties of their predicament and the significance of the secrets they are concealing from the outside world. These scenes, though, are broken up by quieter, more introspective ones where the characters consider their pasts and their feelings for one another.

Characters that are well-developed: The themes and conflicts in Labor Day are largely driven by the novel's complex, fully realized characters. They are multi-faceted, with plausible and relatable motivations and behaviors.

Writing is strong: Joyce Maynard is a gifted and skilled author, and her prose is vivid and evocative. The novel is well-written and easy to read, and it is sure to leave a lasting impression on readers.

Emotionally stirring: The book examines a number of themes, including love, loss, grief, forgiveness, and hope.

The pace could be considered somehow slow for some readers. I personally think it was well-balanced and suited the story very well.

The story contains a number of upsetting themes, making it unsuitable for everyone.

Lessons learned from the story:
The importance of forgiveness: The concept of forgiveness is one of Labor Day's central themes, and the book examines the various paths individuals can take to develop their capacity for both self- and other-forgiveness. All the characters in the book are dealing with regrets and mistakes from the past, and in order to move on and find happiness, they must learn to let go of their resentment and hurt.

The importance of family: The novel also examines the idea of family and how it can give people love, support, and a sense of belonging. Particularly, Adele and Henry develop close relationships with Frank, and these connections enable them to view the world differently and discover new meanings in their own lives.

The value of honesty and integrity: As the characters in the book struggle with the difficulties of their circumstances and the secrets they are hiding, they are forced to make morally challenging decisions. To be happy and at peace, they must learn the value of being honest and true to themselves, even when it is difficult.

The strength of love: Labor Day's characters all find comfort and support in their love for one another, and as a result, they are able to get through a lot of difficulties.

Trigger Warnings:
Domestic violence, mental illness, physical abuse, and child abuse.

I watched the movie adaptation starring Kate Winslet many years ago and loved it. The book is excellent as well. In some ways, the tone of the book reminds me of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. There are all kinds of emotions that you will experience when reading this story. On the surface, it seems to be a simple story, but it is actually deep and complex. This was a beautiful read.

Profile Image for Bianca.
1,043 reviews903 followers
September 11, 2017
I wrote my review directly on GR, (I know, I know, it's a bad habit) and when I clicked post, it all went crazy.

So here we go again, penning a quick review as I've got to dash out.

As you can see, I truly enjoyed this audiobook. These days, due to my huge TBR list, I rarely read books made into movies that I watched. BTW, I thought the movie was pretty good, despite Josh Brolin (he's a good actor, but I'm not a fan). I hadn't read Maynard and upon seeing this audiobook at the library it called to me.

Henry, the narrator of this novel, remembers the events of the Labor Day long weekend, 1987, when his mother and he took home an injured man, named Frank. Henry was thirteen at the time. He lived with his mum, Adele, who's almost a complete recluse. His father remarried and Henry sees him once or twice a week.

Maynard's writing was very atmospheric. I could feel the heat, the literal summer heat, and the figurative one between Adele and Frank, who had a very unlikely relationship. But was it, really?
The poor Henry has mixed emotions, amplified by his puberty.

I don't want to give away too much. I absolutely loved this book. The characters were well drawn. Frank was quite the man, maybe a bit too good to be true (if I keep my cynical hat on), but somehow I bought it, or better said, I allowed Maynard's writing and Wilson Bethel's beautiful narration to transport me, and I appreciate that.

A gorgeous little book! A wonderful audiobook.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,339 reviews697 followers
March 23, 2014
I picked up this book because it’s going to be made into a movie in 2014, with Kate Winslet. If the movie follows the book, it will be a great movie. Maynard knows how to write not only a fabulous story, she writes incredible sentences. Reading her work is like watching a beautiful movie. In this novel, an escaped convict comes upon a sad and lonely divorcee and her teenage son. Told from Henry’s, the teenage son, point of view, his mother, Adele is cast in a morose and damaged light. Adele is basically a shut-in: she refuses to go out in public unless it’s a dire necessity. Henry does grocery shopping once a month; Adele just drives. They eat canned soup and frozen dinners. Henry even does the banking at the bank. Henry sees his father on Saturday night for an awkward dinner at Friendly’s. The escaped convict, Frank, happens upon them at an unusual excursion to Pricemart to get Henry back-to-school clothes. Henry has just turned 13, and Maynard makes this novel, which takes place in 5 days, a coming-of–age story for Henry as well as a suspenseful novel. Frank, bleeding from his head and clearly in pain, finds Henry and asks him if he’d help Frank out by giving him a ride. The two of them find Adele, who oddly agrees to take Frank to her home. This begins a 5 day saga of Frank, Adele, and Henry’s story. As Henry tells the story, the reader aches for Adele and him in their isolation and loneliness. From what Henry sees in his 13 year old eyes, Frank should be feared, yet he and his mother trust him. It becomes a story of acceptance, trust, understanding, and fear. I’m a fan of realistic fiction, and although this should be a far-fetched novel, Maynard writes so beautifully that you have compassion for all involved and see the plausibility of the story. It is a great read and hopefully will be a great movie.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,640 reviews557 followers
March 19, 2017
I knew I had to read this book after seeing the trailer to the movie.
And now that I have read this beautifully written novel I hope the movie does it justice.
I watched the movie last night and although I enjoyed it very much I enjoyed the book more!
Profile Image for Kinga.
476 reviews2,194 followers
September 23, 2014
There are a few reasons why I listened to this book.
1) It’s called ‘Labor Day’ and I listened to it on the Labor Day. This one is actually more of a coincidence than an actual reason but let’s put it there anyway.
2) It takes place in New Hampshire in early September, which is when I arrived in New Hampshire twelve years ago to spend a year there. This is the nostalgia reason.
3) I suppose I’ll come clean and say it: the audiobook is read by Wilson Bethel who looks like this:
I fancied the idea of having him talk to me for hours.

Of course , it would help if he was talking sense. There is nothing worse than a really hot guy who opens his mouth and you wish he never did because now there is no way you could ever bring yourself sleep with him.

Luckily not the case with ‘Labor Day’ which turned out to be a decent book. It is narrated by Henry who looks back on one very hot Labor Day weekend when he was thirteen which changed his life forever. Henry’s mother, Adele, is not exactly in the shortlist for the Mother of the Year award. She is agoraphobic and barely leaves the house. The father is long gone having started a new family with someone better adjusted than Adele, so Henry lives alone with his mother eating canned and frozen food and dreaming about girls and sex. Little ever changes in their monotonous existence until that fateful weekend when Frank appears in their lives and it’s just like Adele to invite a possibly dangerous stranger into her house.

As it turns out, Frank doesn’t seem to be dangerous and is quite possibly the best thing that could’ve happened to this tiny family. He cooks and fixes things around the house, and plays baseball with Henry. Here the book walks the thin line between an interesting story and a Hallmark Channel Movie where people meet an angel in an unlikely form of a fugitive criminal who teaches them to love again and make pies.

What saves the novel is Henry, who having just entered puberty, is sure to complicate things the way hormonally unbalanced individuals only know how. I think those self-inflicted complications are the best part of the book which should end with the end of the weekend. I think three or four chapters of what was basically an epilogue were unnecessary. But I’m generally not a big fan of epilogues which, to me, are like the extra piece of chocolate cake. You think you want it but after you had it you realise it would’ve been better if you stopped eating after the first piece.

As for Wilson Bethel’s performance, I particularly liked the low, raspy voice he used for Frank. It made Frank appear in my head fully fleshed out like book characters rarely do.

I have also just learnt that this is being turned into a movie and Kate Winslet will play Adele. After Little Children it’s clear that she can play unhappy mothers well.
Profile Image for Jacquelyn Arseneau.
100 reviews5 followers
February 1, 2014
This book was GOD AWFUL!!! First the descriptions from Henry about listening to his mother have sex were just distrubing. I don't think any child would describe this to anyone and there was just no point in the book that it was even necessary.

I wanted to love this book so much! I saw the preview for the upcoming movie and decided this would be a great read. It is told by Henry a 13 year old boy. An injured man (Frank) approaches Henry in a convenience store asking for help. Once getting home they discover that Frank is actually an escaped convict from a prison serving time for murder. Not only was the reason he was put in jail for murder so ridiculous - but it just wasn't convincing.

Henry's mother is a nervous, anti social woman and after many heart wrenching times in her life she decided going out in public is to hard and decides to stay home for good - seriously this is the way you are looking at life?? Then her and Frank begin to fall in love (in the time frame of 5 days and are going to get married????? Seriously who gets married after 5 days of knowing someone?) and in reality that is all the book is about - there is no excitement and nothing as all kept me reading.

The thing I hated most about this book - There is no punctuation when people are speaking. No quotations such as " " as all - makes it very hard to read and figure out who is even speaking in the book. This book has foolish reviews which made me think it would be something I would like - I was sadly mistaken and forced myself through the book.

I can actually say I am looking forward to the movie and this will be one case where the movie is better than the book. There is no way it can be worse... really it was that bad!
Profile Image for Paul.
170 reviews53 followers
June 17, 2018
Very easy read, delightful character development, and not too wordy. A love story wrapped in a coming of age story with a smidgen of a thriller. I might have the measurements a little mixed up, could be more of a thriller with a smidgen of a love story. ;-D
Profile Image for Judith.
1,505 reviews73 followers
November 2, 2010
Joyce Maynard caught my interest years ago with the publication of her memoir about her life with J.D. Salinger. At the time she was widely vilified for exposing an intimate picture of an author who is practically a national treasure. I found that book fascinating, well-written and I had no problem with her sharing her story with the world. By the time I finished that book I had more respect for Maynard than for Salinger.

Labor Day is my first experience with her fiction and I found it hilarious, though it's not an intentionally funny book. A convicted murderer (Frank) escapes a prison hospital and meets 13-year old Henry and his mother, Adele, at a Wal-Mart type store. And they find him so charming within 5 minutes that, although bleeding and wearing clothes with the price-tags still on, he accompanies them out of the store and into their car, without objection,telling them at some point that he thinks he will hang out with them a few days. When they get home, Henry points out that it's against the law to harbor a criminal, and to get around this, Frank asks Adele if he could tie her up. She responds that she has a collection of silk scarves and Frank proceeds to tie her to the chair with her scarves. And even told through the eyes of a 13 year old boy, we get all the sexual innuendo in that scene. Then he says he makes the best chili in the world, and sure enough, Henry thinks later, while eating his chili and watching Frank feed his mother every bite, it is the best chili he's ever tasted. Frank proceeds to prove himself useful by cleaning out the furnace, fixing broken appliances, rotating the tires on their car, baking biscuits and peach pie, and teaching Henry how to catch a ball! That does it, next Labor Day I am going straight to Wal-Mart and I am going to stay there till I find me a useful convict to take home. I hope he can wash windows too.

But that's not the funny part. What made me laugh was the narration of the 13-year old boy. This is Henry contemplating his parents' divorce: "What I decided was, it hadn't been losing my father that broke my mother's heart, if that was what had taken place, as it appeared. It was losing love itself----the dream of making your way across America on popcorn and hot dogs, dancing your way across America, in a sparkly dress with red underpants. Having someone think you were beautiful, which, she had told me, my father used to tell her she was, every day.. . ." yeah, that sounds like a 13 year old boy, only he'd have to be Truman Capote. If Salinger reads this book, he will get the last laugh.
Profile Image for Gabril.
732 reviews162 followers
March 26, 2023
Per motivi diversi Alice e Frank hanno rinunciato al mondo. Sono intimamente soli, dentro quattro mura. È destino che si incontrino, in un supermercato, nei giorni torridi del Labor day.

È Henry a raccontare la storia di quella manciata di giorni magici, un ragazzino di neanche tredicianni che si trova ad assistere alla repentina trasformazione della madre e alla improvvisa possibilità di riavere un padre.
Che Frank sia un evaso (lo sappiamo subito), che questo piccolo particolare possa renderlo decisamente pericoloso, al momento poco importa. Che portarselo a casa sia l’azzardo più assurdo passa in secondo piano rispetto alla pacata gentilezza che l’uomo dimostra, ma soprattutto passa in secondo piano rispetto alla scintilla che accende tra lui e Adele un fuoco destinato a durevole splendore.

Ma Henry che ne può sapere, quale esperienza ha mai del mondo, e quale dell’amore? Nessuna.
Lui ha soltanto i suoi occhi, il suo disagio e il suo bisogno, il suo tentativo di interpretazione di fatti nuovi e misteriosi, le sue categorie giocoforza limitate e limitanti. Necessariamente fuorvianti.
E tuttavia nel cuore della storia è capace di entrare anche lui. Anche lui sente e sa. Ma la confusione di messaggi contrastanti possono condizionare le sue reazioni, i suoi istinti, le sue scelte. Molte idee si affollano nella sua testolina di ragazzo. Speranze luminose e dubbi tormentosi si avvicendano mentre osserva (e testimonia) tutto quel che accade in quel lunghissimo giorno di festa.

È probabilmente il singolare punto di vista narrativo che contribuisce alla bellezza di questa storia, che potrebbe apparire oggettivamente inverosimile, anzi probabilmente lo è, ma la delicata schiettezza della voce di Henry, la sua prospettiva unica e originale ci portano ben presto a condividere i sentimenti che sbocciano in lui dall’insolito incontro. Che ha qualcosa di magico, infatti, e ben presto disvela (e scioglie) i nodi tenebrosi di un dolore tenuto troppo stretto in sé da ciascuno dei personaggi.
La naturalezza dei dialoghi, la scrittura tersa e fluida rendono possibile il coinvolgimento e accendono la speranza che, anche quando tutto si ottenebra, sia possibile (ri)trovare la strada che porta alla vita. Affinché l’amore trionfi, come nelle favole.

Morale: che la giustizia non sia di questo mondo lo sappiamo, l’amore invece lo è.
Profile Image for Sarah.
858 reviews36 followers
August 16, 2009
Well written and mildly satisfying, Labor Day is a very quick read. In fact, I read it just this afternoon after hiking. A suspicious stranger, who turns out to be an escaped prisoner, approaches a young boy and his mother for a ride while they're out shopping. They take him in, he offers to help around the house, and interesting bonds form. The mother is your standard borderline character, suffering from depression and desiring isolation. Her son is a typical teenage product of divorce, stepping into the responsible role when his mother won't. I wasn't quite sure how everything would be resolved -- it wasn't necessarily predictable, but it was very tidy. As nice (is that an insult?) as it all was, I can't help but feeling rather neutral about it. Neither fantastic nor terrible.
Profile Image for Camie.
899 reviews186 followers
February 10, 2014
The lives of thirteen year old Henry Wheeler, a lonely outcast, and his mother Adele, an emotionally fragile , reclusive, and also lonely woman , are about to change as they risk showing kindness to a stranger with a secret past. Spanning 6 days including Labor Day , this is a love story and coming of age story, and most recently a movie with Kate Winslet and Josh Brollin. I especially like the last chapters which are beautifully written. Is it wrong to try and grasp a bit of happiness , given the rare opportunity ? hmmmm. 4 stars.
Profile Image for Jaime.
1,329 reviews74 followers
July 10, 2016
I had mixed feelings about this book. In one way, it’s a gentle story about love and a teenaged boy who has had to be the adult for way too long. On the other hand, it feels a little contrived. A woman and her son bring into their home a strange man without even a flicker of worry or doubt or suspicion? Even before they find out he’s an escaped convict, you’d expect the situation to raise some flags. But, if you can accept the premise, the story of their Labor Day weekend does its job to pull you through. You can understand Henry’s swinging emotions about the situation — after all, he’s still a child — and his mother’s ability to fall in love so easily. Do we believe Frank’s story? All that matters is that Adele believes it.

Where the book really lost me was in the chapters following the climax of the novel. I think way too much was said about the resolution, and the story would have been even more compact and powerful if that section had been cut into a single chapter.

Overall, I’m not sorry I read it, but I think it could have been better with a minimum amount of work.
Profile Image for Joan.
313 reviews22 followers
December 26, 2017
Another wonderful book by Joyce Maynard written mostly from the point of a teenager. Very well written and I’m sorry to be finished with it. I wish it could have gone on and on. I actually rate this 4.5. I listened to this book every chance I got and couldn’t wait to get back to it. I love her writing style. If this were a bookclub book I think there would be plenty to discuss. As with her other book this felt like a true story. I don’t want to include any spoilers so I won’t talk about the story. But just know it’s a story I felt compelled o finish to see what would happen.
Profile Image for SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*.
504 reviews98 followers
March 25, 2015
A young boys coming of age story.Two lost souls finding each other.A sweet,sad love story. Very well written. Wonderful characters,that stay in character. Just a good,solid book. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Branwen Sedai *of the Brown Ajah*.
983 reviews168 followers
December 30, 2013
"She was in love with love. She couldn't do anything partway. She felt everything too deeply, it was like the world was too much for her."

This story details the momentous events that take place over the course of Labor Day weekend when Adele and her teenage son Henry, bring a fugitive into their homes and their lives.

I literally just finished this book a few moments ago, and I am still such an emotional mess right now that I should probably have waited to write this review but I wanted it to be as fresh as possible.

This book. Holy shit, guys. This book is probably one of the most achingly beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure to read. It was so tender and heartbreaking and so unbelievably full of heart and emotion that I feel like this is going to stay with me for the rest of my life. This book is about family and loyalty and what it means to grow up, but it is also mostly about love. The kind of love that sweeps you off your feet and never puts you back down. The kind of love that you dream about. The kind of love that is wild and passionate and makes no sense at all and brings all kind of trouble to your door and still all you can do is get down on your knees and thank whatever gods there are above that that kind of feeling made its way into your life.

This book is nothing short of amazing.

"It hadn't been losing my father that broke my mother's heart. It was losing love itself. What she had loved was loving."
Profile Image for Laurel-Rain.
Author 6 books230 followers
August 4, 2009
From the very beginning of “Labor Day,” the reader is immersed in the mind, emotions and everyday life of a thirteen-year-old boy during one memorable Labor Day weekend. All told from the first-person narrator Henry.

Living in a small New Hampshire town, Henry is miserably aware of his limitations and those of his family members—from his mother, who is almost an agoraphobic, to his father whose new family with his new wife and new kids has no idea how to relate to him. Their stilted Saturday evenings out seem excruciating, and yet returning home to the mother whose need for him is almost too much…well, Henry is ripe for something extraordinary... something that will completely turn his world on end.

And then, at the Pricemart store early in that Labor Day weekend, the totally unexpected thing happens. First of all, it is very unusual for Henry and his mother to be out at all. His mother Adele avoids stores to the point that when she does go out, she usually buys enough provisions to stock up, therefore avoiding another such outing for many weeks…or months.

Therefore, it’s almost a quirk of fate, the two of them being in the store that day—it’s a last-minute clothes-buying expedition for Henry.

So when the man, bleeding and injured, approaches Henry, asking for help, it is such a fluke that of all the people this man could approach, Henry would be there for the encounter. And from that moment on, events tumble forward into such an unlikely scenario that the reader is drawn in and inevitably mesmerized by the unfolding moments.

We see the story unfold gradually, however, as the narrator takes us back and forth, filling us in on the backstory of each of the characters, helping us understand the context in which we find ourselves.

And then, almost like a slow crescendo, everything builds to the dramatic ending.

That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, lest I spoil it for the readers. Suffice it to say that the way you perceive certain things in life may never be the same again.

Afterwards, we are gifted with a few scenes of Henry’s life in adulthood, looking back on that summer weekend and how everything affected him—and not just negatively. We see how one incident of piecrust making with a stranger impacts Henry so much that he becomes a master chef as an adult. We discover how all of the events shaped his feelings about love, passion, betrayal…and how the haunting consequences of one weekend informed so much of his life in the years to come.

As I turned the last page, I wanted more…more about these characters and the events afterward; more of their experiences, living life through their eyes for just a little bit longer. They felt like friends…or possibly neighbors.

I will not forget this story.

Profile Image for Rachel.
361 reviews12 followers
March 24, 2014
This is the stupidest book I've read in recent memory, and I'm not all that discriminating a reader, so that's saying something. To be fair, the last 60 or 70 pages are reasonably affecting, but everything leading up to that: pee yew.

Narrated by 13-year-old Henry (who is prone to saying things like, "My body had been changing. ... [H]air had started to grow under my arms, and lower down too, in the place I had no words for." NO WORDS FOR.) who lives alone with his mother Adele, a borderline agoraphobic. On the Thursday before Labor Day weekend, Adele takes Henry to a K-Mart-like store to buy him a pair of pants (the extent of their back-to-school shopping) and while she's wheeling the cart around, Henry stands by the magazines reading a Cosmopolitan and is approached by Frank, a 40-ish man wearing slippers whose leg and head are bleeding. Frank asks Henry if Henry's mom will give him a ride and when Henry asks where to, Frank says, "uh, your house?" and when Henry relays this to his mom, who's so afraid of the world that she only leaves her house about once a month, she's like, "NO PROBLEM!"

Long story short, Frank is an escaped convicted murderer, but he changes all the lightbulbs at Adele's house and cooks the world's best chili and and peach pie, so naturally he and Adele fall in love, have sex while Henry listens from his room next door, and decide to marry within three days.

I haven't even told you the stupid, creepy parts yet.

The sad thing is that this story -- about how three broken people become a family of sorts -- has the potential to be great. Maynard is a reasonably talented writer, but the plot points here are just so contrived and unbelievable. Also, she has no idea how to voice a 13-year-old boy. I give this an extra star because there's some good characterization of Adele, Frank, and Adele's ex-husband towards the end, but otherwise, this book was pretty crappy.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,526 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.